Mediating Law: Cultural Production and the Revitalization of Indigenous Legal Orders in Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Meloche, Katherine
  • This dissertation examines contemporary Indigenous cultural production as it mediates conversations within Indigenous and settler legal discourses concerning continuance and change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries in Canada. It argues that attention to Indigenous cultural production is an effective mode through which to understand Indigenous legal orders—a nation’s collective legal philosophy, protocols, and principles (Napoleon “Thinking About Indigenous Legal Orders” 2)—and that they are diverse and deliberative in nature. Contemporary fiction, film, and visual art continue the tradition of oral stories, carvings, beadwork and visual arts to express legal principles in the present. To this end, it advances an investigation of texts—novels, films, short stories, comics, animation, and visual art—that communicate legal discussions in order to sidestep the colonial rhetoric that Indigenous legal traditions remain fixed in the past and to illuminate how Indigenous legal orders remain vital frameworks in the present. It studies these texts through several theoretical lenses including a nation-specific legal framework and Indigenous feminist legal theory and draws largely from the fields of Indigenous political theory and Indigenous literary studies. As a result, it moves away from centralizing the relationship between legal theory and the written word to a) denaturalize Western frameworks that see written orthography as the only form of legitimate legal expression and b) foreground the flexibility of Indigenous storytelling as an important framework to understand Indigenous legal expression. The first chapter teases out the relationship between Haisla legal theory and the novel form to show how it offers a model of re-reading contemporary novels within these frameworks. The second chapter turns to Inuit film and fiction that represent legal and religious change in the 1920s to explore how they offer past models of legal deliberation that think through legal continuance and change into the future. The third chapter then turns to visual art and short film that express Indigenous feminist critiques of Canada’s response to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit People (MMIWG2S) in the criminal justice system and that examine Indigenous feminist legal resurgence in the present. Finally, the fourth chapter considers comics and animation that emerged in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action. These works focus on the ongoing incarceration of Indigenous peoples and grapple with various ways of reforming prisons, of building culturally-specific community-based sentencing, or of abolishing carceral systems entirely. Such attention to mediation, as a continuing process of adapting legal expression, accentuate Indigenous artists and authors’ rich creative expression, communities’ ongoing deliberation, and legal pluralism that undergirds Indigenous resurgence movements in the present.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.